The awards are piling up, DWWA bronze for rosé and white cuvée, silver for Smederevka (the same as Bulgarian Dimyat, here called Belina) and Prokupac (which I think deserves gold) and gold for red cuvée and Sauvignon Blanc, which is quite surprising in Serbia, isn't it? Moreover, they seem to have quickly taken the initiative and the barrel Sauvignon Blanc, named SoviNoa, has quickly become an iconic wine, priced out of the stars and still almost unobtainable. Now that's how you take advantage of a gold medal in a wine competition! 

With this in mind, we visited the Šumadija region, which impressed me so much that I have predicted a fourth place in the list of the most authentic Eastern European wine regions for 2024! We spent a whole day wandering around Šumadija as part of the Open Balkan programme, going from cellar to cellar like a lost bumblebee, only stopping at the Matijašević winery on the way back. We were already well into the evening, but the host, former basketball player, brand manager and American university graduate Darko Matijašević, not only didn't let us fall asleep, but quickly woke us up with both his engaging personality and a glass of gin, which they also make.

Belina 2020 I 87 points

The name of the grape variety might be translated from Serbian into English as "whiteness" or, funnily enough, "Snow White". It's not a world-beating variety, so it's a big deal that it has already collected two bronze and one silver medal at DWWA. His colour is pale lemon. On the nose it has ripe apples and a hint of flint. The palate is medium-bodied with an elegant acid structure and a restrained apple-citrus flavour. Clean, lively, flawless. 87/100 points, which means it would be worth a gold medal at a CMB!

Belina Orange 2020 I 90 points

The grape variety is the same, but by some crazy (or Georgian) idea it was left to macerate for 120 days. The colour is accordingly pale gold, and the nose has lemon zest, minerality, juniper and a hint of pipe tobacco. Tasted medium-bodied with elegant acidity, the tannins are just a little drying and the palate has notes of orange peel, lemon zest, lime and flint. Unfiltered, but not to the detriment of the wine!

SoviNoa Fumée Blanc 2021 I 93 points

The French name already refers to the grape variety, Sauvignon Blanc. So this is the famous and infamous top wine, which is sold for 100 Euros! The colour is pale lemon, the nose is gooseberry, white pepper and ripe apple. Medium-bodied, the palate is broad but with vibrant acidity, and the flavour is barrel spice and savoury lemon, flint, apple, green tomato and an ever-increasing pineapple note. The finish is very long!

As we chat to Darko - he had the foresight not to disturb the tired team down to the cellar for another tank visit - it turns out that not only does he love basketball, but he was a certified player at a pretty high level, but a sports injury ended a promising career that was starting out. This gave him the opportunity to study for a business degree in the United States, where he got a real taste of the opportunities in modern marketing and business development, so when he inherited his grandparents' small estate - which of course had some grapes - he saw not only a problem, but an opportunity. And the rest is history…

Čukundeda 2020 I 92 points

The legendary "old uncle" labeled Prokupac, whose 2019 vintage I loved as much as the grape variety itself! Medium to pale ruby in colour, with the usual cherry and sour cherry on the nose, along with some hazelnut and lovage. The body is thinner than medium, with a bright acidity that makes it cheerful. On the palate, it's pure fruit, cherry jam and pomegranate juice with a touch of rose pepper spice. The finish is longer than medium.

Sedam hrastova cuvée red 2021 I 87 points

This is the basic red wine of the cellar, it is not even competed, it will sell out quickly without competition. It is a blend of Merlot and Prokupac, but as we know, anything with 10% Merlot is already Melot, and this one certainly has more. The colour is medium ruby, the nose is rose pepper representing the Prokupac grape variety and the plum and cherry representing the Merlot grape variety. Medium body, lively acidity, lots of red berry fruit, tiny bit of leather, medium finish. Super entry wine!

Tri doline 2020 I 93 points

Pure Merlot, only the best vintages. Medium to deep ruby in colour, with a nose of mainly cherry, plum and some clove. Tasted with great body, pulsating acidity, silky tannins, tight structure, you can almost feel the backbone of the wine in your mouth. The palate is driven by fruit, the finish is almost endless.

As the atmosphere rises - and even here we're spitting everything out, as the last wine should be given as much chance as the first one at the start of the day - I notice the red carpet that brightens up the rustic setting and the two large figural paintings hanging on the raw concrete wall. Modern yet classic, a little Dalí, but not as surreal, of course, but also reminiscent of Botticelli, I'm increasingly impressed. Darko senses it, too, so he whispers the painter's name in my ear: Milan Hrnjazovic. He is young, in his early forties and seems to understand painting as well as Darko understands winemaking.

And as for the end of the tasting, we had two more wines in our glasses that I don't think are available and may not be available, or if they are, they will be very limited. One was an even crazier experiment than the aforementioned Georgian-style orange wine, in which Belina grapes were roasted and then made into wine. Or at least they tried to. The result was Inferno 2022, a pale gold wine with a smoky, citrusy, roasted corn aroma that reminds me of polenta. The other was a "cukundeda superiore", a Prokupac made with the apassimento method, from 2019. If it ever comes on the market or someone wants to buy it, the price will be between 500-700 Euros. The colour is pale garnet, the nose is strawberry and dill, with bonbon and vanilla, while the flavour is nonetheless bone dry. An extreme curiosity that is difficult to categorise!